Navy SEALS -- the special operations forces of the United States Navy -- receive training in all combat disciplines. SEALS develop proficiency with multiple weapons systems, transport vehicles and personal survival equipment. Most importantly, they practice -- and master -- hand-to-hand combat. While all military units receive some training in fighting techniques, Navy SEALS drill continuously in various martial arts disciplines to hone their skills and prepare for missions. Because SEALS conduct covert operations, combat situations arise where weapons are not an option. For these men, a dedication to the martial arts means more than belts or titles -- it means the difference between life and death.
SEALS combat training starts with the hands -- and the shins, elbows and knees. The cultural martial art of Thailand, Muay Thai remains a close-combat style that utilizes all parts of the arms and legs to inflict damage. For SEALS, Muay Thai offers the mental and physical conditioning of stand-up boxing along with the ability to severely injure an opponent -- elbow and knee strikes can cause deep cuts and lacerations, and direct strikes to the head often result in loss of consciousness. SEALS also learn to fight from the clinch, a position in which you control your opponent by gripping the back of his head with your hands. This sets up a throw that can transition the fight to the ground.
On the ground, grappling skills provide Navy SEALS with the ability to subdue and kill an opponent without available weapons. Brazilian jiu-jitsu remains one of the world’s most widely-studied submission martial arts. Traditional jiu-jitsu training involves takedowns from standing and submissions on the ground -- as well as defensive positions for every offensive move. For SEALS, close-quarter fighting increases the risk that you may end up in a disadvantageous position -- such as your back. But with jiu-jitsu, you learn to create leverage and place stress on joints and other pressure points, techniques that can lead to broken bones and even death in true combat situations.
A relatively new martial art, Krav Maga originated in the Middle East in the 1940's and remains the official fighting system of the Israeli Defense Force. According to the Krav Maga Institute, the combat program trains fighters to strike quickly and with deadly force, an important skill for SEALS. Like other martial arts, Krav Maga teaches defensive moves as well as attacks, but in this program there are no rules. Groin punches, eye pokes and strikes to the throat are practiced and embraced. Krav Maga practitioners do not wear uniforms or participate in showcases, but like other martial arts, fighters can participate in a belt system to test their expertise.
A combination of multiple systems utilized in the Philippines and surrounding regions, Filipino Kali involves empty-handed combat as well as knife-based fighting techniques. Kali trains fighters to disarm opponents, evade submissions and strike quickly. Emphasis is placed on avoiding conflict when possible but acting with confidence and lethalness when necessary. Filipino Kali also teaches practitioners to view the environment as a source of weapons -- a piece of trash can become a weapon with the right training. For SEALS, preparing for the unknown is crucial to survival as is the ability to find any advantage over your opponent.
- Black Belt Magazine: Modern Army Combatives
- Black Belt Magazine: How BJJ Techniques Can Be Used in Self-Defense Moves
- Krav Maga Institute: What Is Krav Maga?
- Anderson's Martial Arts Academy: Filipino Martial Arts / Weapons (Kali)
- U.S. Department of Defense: Marines, Army Lead in Close-Quarters Combat Training
- Photo Credit Stocktrek Images/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images
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